Posts Tagged ‘Healing of Magic’

A WEEK IN NEW JERSEY

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

I have to apologize again for not being as prompt as I should be in writing this blog.  My days have been slammed – and so have my nights.  The performance schedule is busy and that’s a great thing.  But beyond the shows, I’m also working in many of these communities with special education students, clients in rehab hospitals, and conducting continuing education training sessions for educators and therapists.  And I’m trying to wrap up my Certification in Autism Students while writing a research paper on the Social and Cognitive Benefits of Integrating Magic Tricks for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum.

We have had some great shows this season – enthusiastic audiences and strong responses!  Our week in New Jersey was no exception.  The opportunity to work in two schools and two rehabilitation hospitals in Somerville was a great way to start the week.  You can reach more about it on the previous blog post

From Somerville, we made our way to Vineland in the southern part of New Jersey.  Our performance was scheduled for Friday night in the Guaracini Fine & Performing Arts Center…

…but, on Thursday, Chase and I had the chance to work with some college students.  I taught them a few magic tricks with the express purpose of improving memory, concentration, sequencing, and creativity.  They did an outstanding job!

On Friday, when we arrived at the theatre, we were greeted by Chris and the technical crew.  This would be our second time on the stage at CCCNJ.  Greg and his team are great, fun to work with, and very professional.  They were ready to get the show loaded in, set up, and ready for the audience.  The day rolled along very smoothly – scenery, lighting, focus, cues, etc.

The audience for the Friday performance was fantastic!  Meeting them in the lobby afterward is always a highlight for me.  Hearing their comments about their favorite illusion or moment in the show makes it all worthwhile.

After Vineland, we were on our way back north to Somerville.  This would be our 4th or 5th performance at the Theatre at RVCC working with Alan and his team.  It is always such a pleasure to work here (dare I say like family?) – and after two days working in the community, I was looking forward to the show!  I took lots of pictures during the day AND this audience was wonderful – engaged and responsive to all the illusions.  It was the perfect way to end a week in New Jersey!

SOMERVILLE, NJ – OUTREACH

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

We arrived in Somerville, NJ to do some work in the community prior to our Saturday night show at the Theatre at RVCC. I was particularly excited by the fact that Cindy Alexander was able to get such a tremendous response from area organizations.  On Monday, I conducted an inservice program at Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, NJ.  This was an opportunity to share the concepts of “magic therapy” with physical therapists – tools they can use to help their clients with pain management, strengthening, balance, coordination, and motor skills.  We had a great time and the therapists could instantly see the potential for their clients for this type of treatment modality.

On Tuesday morning, several students from Montgomery Academy came to the Theatre at RVCC.  We had a great time teaching them some tricks and watching them engage in creative thinking and problem solving.  After lunch, I went to Somerset Hills Learning Institute to work with some of the students there.  Their motto is “Changing the face of Autism” and they are doing some great work.

In the evening, we all made our way to Somerset Medical Center for a 3-hours continuing education workshop on the therapeutic use of magic in rehabilitation.  We had therapists of all kinds – occupational, speech, and physical – attend the workshop.  It was an interactive learning experience for all of us!  Here are just a few pictures:

We’ll be coming back to Somerville on Saturday morning for our main performance at the Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College – come check it out!

UNIVERSITY OF ULSTER – BELFAST, UK

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

We landed on time at Belfast City Airport and made our way to the baggage claim.  As we entered the area, I got my first glimpse at Leon Andersen waiting for us in the main airport lobby.  Leon is a Facebook friend and we’ve been staying in touch for more than 2 years.  This trip was a great chance to meet him and hang out.  He has graciously volunteered to show us around Ireland during the brief time that we off.

We waited patiently for our luggage on the carousel…only to be disappointed.  None of our bags arrived with us!  We filed the necessary paper work and Leon drove us to the airport in Belfast’s Queen’s Quarter.  We parked the car and went on the search for food!

Lunch gave us some time to get to know each other, chat a little about magic, and talk about “tourism” plans for the next couple of days. Once we checked into the hotel, I took some time to relax and take a shower before dinner.  Tonight would be the first time that I would officially meet Daniel Harte and Alison Porter-Armstrong from the University of Ulster.

Dinner was fantastic at a restaurant called DEANES at Queen’s College.  There was quite a group of us – several of the area magicians (Alex, Paul and Leon), Daniel Harte (NI Hand Injury Rehab Center), Alison Porter-Armstrong (U of U Occupational Therapy), Rachelone of Alison’s graduate students), Chase, and I.  And, before the night was, over, Dido Green (researcher from Oxford Brooks in London) joined us for dessert.  We had good conversation about magic and rehabilitation and developing an undergraduate program in the OT Department of the University of Ulster.

It took some time to fall asleep once I got back to the hotel last night.  The enthusiasm about the magic therapy research project being considered by Daniel got me very excited. Once I finally fell asleep, morning came VERY quickly!

We were Dido and Leon for breakfast and then drove over to the University of Ulster to prepare for the workshop.  We had more than 40 therapists registered to attend a full day, 6-hour continuing education session on the Healing of Magic program.  This was due to the amazing work of Daniel and Alison at U of U – their enthusiasm for this project really moved it forward!

The morning session consisted mostly of providing the rationales, research, and case studies that support this treatment technique.  After a lunch break, the afternoon session was the “hands-on experiential learning” aspect of the workshop.  The University also invited some clients and special needs children to attend the workshop as a means by which they could gauge the immediate benefits of using magic tricks as a treatment technique.

When the day wrapped up around 4:30pm, it was great to hear so much positive feedback from participants.  We packed up and drove back into Belfast City Center where we spent the remainder of the evening exploring and enjoying the sights, sounds, and food of this fantastic city.  I’m already looking forward to my next visit!

QUICK TRIP TO BRANSON

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

I was able to spend a few days in the office working on a couple of projects before it was time to leave again.  The first on my list was to complete a very exhaustive application for “Approved Provider Status” from the American Occupational Therapy Association.  I’m hoping to get Healing of Magic sanctioned by the national association so that I can offer the education workshop to therapists without seeking individual state association approval.  Having this status would be a huge accomplishment for this program and continue to move us in the right direction.  I worked on all the policies, guidelines, and responses to the questions while Keith updated the website with the required information.

Once this project was complete, it was on to the next.  I was booked for taping session at Hello Studios in Lynchburg to film a new Hocus Focus commercial for the early August “back to school” launch of the curriculum.  I did two 60-second spots and an extended version to use at trade shows.  While in the studio, I also filmed the new video that will be used as the foundation for the public showing when we do outreach work in communities.

After a few days at home, Chase and I were back on the road again for the long drive to Branson, MO.  I am having a new illusion developed for the show and it’s being constructed in Branson.  It was at a place where I needed to check it out and make some artistic decisions…so, the long 16 hour drive began.  We made it a “journey” of sorts and we got to spend a little time in Branson as well – about a day and a half!

I was able to visit with my old friend Kirby VanBurch.  We’ve known each other since we were about 19 years old – that’s a long time. It was good to see his show and have the chance to catch up on a things.  I haven’t had a chance to visit with Kirby in a long time.  I saw his show on Friday night and then hung out for about an hour backstage before calling it quits for the day.

On Saturday, I met up with Taylor Reed for breakfast.  He is another friend who is performing in Branson and a current contestant on America’s Got Talent.  I saw his show on Saturday afternoon and had the chance to meet his family and talk for a while.

Sunday was a short day but the most important.  We were up very early, 5:30am, to take an extended look at the new illusion.  It took several hours to assemble and videotape the process.  We also took lots of pictures so we could begin the artistic design once we return home.  This is going to be a cool illusion!

PODCAST INTERVIEW ON ITRICKS

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

We’ve been staying busy around the Spencer office. Just because we’re not on the road, doesn’t mean their aren’t lots of things to do!  Chase has spent the last few days working in the warehouse repairing illusions, organizing cases, and making a list of all that needs to be done over the coming weeks.  Keith has been processing contracts, working on the new tech package, and making sure the office is running smoothly.

Today, however, I had the privilege of being interviewed for the iTricks Podcast with Justin Robert Young.  All the guys at iTricks have been big supporters of our work and this was an opportunity to talk about some of my recent research in healthcare and education.  You can check it out HERE.

LONE TREE ARTS CENTER, CO

Monday, March 26th, 2012

I’ve just wrapped up five amazing days in Colorado working with Lisa and Kirstin at the Lone Tree Arts Center.  We pulled into town on Tuesday night and hit the ground running on Wednesday morning.  The first stop was Sky Ridge Medical Center where we conducted a Healing of Magic workshop for more than 25 rehabilitation therapists.  It’s always exciting for me when therapists begin to understand that it’s not “just magic tricks.”  Using simple tricks in therapy is a great way to excite and motivate patients to get involved in their treatment.

After the workshop, we stopped back by the hotel to pick up a few things and then we were on our way to the Lone Tree Arts Center.  In the early evening, we did a Hocus Focus workshop for special education teachers from the district.  The group was small but the energy was huge!

On Thursday, Chase and I went to Mountain Ridge Middle School to work with some of the students of one of the teachers who attended the Hocus Focus workshop.  We arrived early because the students we would be working with had opened a restaurant for the day – The Ram Street Cafe.  They served us chicken noodle soup, lemonade, and strawberry shortcake.  After lunch, Chase and I went to their room to get ready for class while they were cleaning up the “cafe.”  Before the students to come into the room, we found an interesting playmate.

Once the students arrived, we left Mr. Bones alone and started to teach.  From the moment the kids entered the classroom, they knew they were in for something special.  They were excited about learning and couldn’t wait for class to begin.  All of these kids were either autistic or had some cognitive deficits but that didn’t hold them back at all.  They jumped right in, taking on the challenges in front of them, and learned several magic tricks.  Beyond that, they also wrote some great stories to tell when they perform their tricks.  It was the perfect afternoon.

On Friday, Chase and I started the morning with a visit to Highline Community School to work with another group of amazing kids.  This was a large group with a variety of diagnoses – from autism to oppositional defiance disorders.  They were tough kids…or so they thought.  But when the magic came out, they were simply kids – totally captivated by the “impossible” and eager to learn how to perform some tricks of their own.  Any emotional or behavioral issues they had simply vanished as they gave their entire attention to mastering the magic.  What they didn’t realize is that they were also learning about fractions, gravity, the laws of motion, and dozens of basic concepts that you and I take for granted.

Next we raced over to Aurora to the Life Care Center – a short term and long term rehabilitation center – to do a Healing of Magic inservice project with the therapists.  I love watching them learn to perform the magic tricks but, more importantly, I love hearing them discuss which of their patients will benefit from this type of treatment technique.

After a quick bite to eat, we were off to the last stop of the day – Mark Twain Elementary School.  We got a little lost on the way there but, eventually, found the school and got set up in plenty of time for class.  These students had been working all work to be good so they could enjoy this last activity before starting spring break.  This is especially remarkable for these kids because most of the struggle with Emotional Behavior Disorders and Autism.  For the next hour, they were magicians!

Saturday morning arrived and it was time for a special performance for children with special needs.  Throughout the week, students and their families had been invited to come to the Lone Tree Arts Center to participate in an “invitation only” event.  After doing some fun magic for them, it was time for the kids to take to the stage and perform some magic for their peers.  Several of them assisted me during some of my magic while others came to the stage to perform their own tricks.  Priceless!!

Saturday night was the main performance at the Lone Tree Arts Center.  We had a full house with a highly enthusiastic audience.  When we took the stage with our first illusion, there were audible gasps…and the fun continued for the full two hours.  I videotaped this show for so many reasons.  I wanted to check out the new illusions in the show as well as the production values.  We are working on several new illusions for next season.  This was an opportunity to see and hear what we can do to make them even better.  I was amazed to hear that the audience was even more responsive that what I could hear from the stage.  Wow, what a great night…no wait, what a great week!!!

The added bonus of this trip was to meet up with some of our friends, Tom and Dale.  We met them several years ago on a train from Paris to Venice. We shared a few meals together in Venice and have stayed connected ever since.  A couple of years ago, they came to our show in Cheyenne.  It was awesome to get to see them – and to meet their friends – and to catch up over dinner before the show.

WARSAW, IN – HAMILTON, OH – TOLEDO, OH

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

WARSAW PERFORMING ARTS CENTER – INDIANA

I started February with a very busy schedule and travel plan.  We left Ada, OH and made our way to Warsaw, IN to perform at the new Warsaw Performing Arts Center.  The day before the show, I had the privilege of teaching some of the students in the high school in a magic workshop.  The following day, we moved the show into the Performing Arts Center…but when we arrived for load in, someone had tripped the fire alarm and the building was being evacuated!

Once the fire department gave the “all clear,” we were able to start loading in.  The day moved along really well and I was happy with the way things looked on the stage.

Tickets sold very well for this performance, especially on a Thursday night!  We had a huge crowd of families, students, young adults, and seniors – my favorite audience!  The response to the show was very positive and I talked to hundreds of people in the lobby afterwards.  It was a good way to start February!

FITTON CENTER FOR CREATIVE ARTS – OH

Immediately after we loaded out the show in Indiana, we made the four hour drive to Hamilton, OH.  We finally checked into the hotel around 2am. The next day would start early with a morning workshop for the theatre students at the performing arts high school.  I had a great time teaching them some magic and they entertained me with their improv presentations.

After the workshop, I walked back to the hotel and gathered the rest of the team.  We brought over the truck to begin getting set up for the evening performance.  This is a very different venue for us but we were able to customize a show that worked well in a very cool, intimate space.  We had a sold out house and they turned so many people away the week prior to the show, during the day, and at the box office the night of the performance.  The audience we did have was GREAT!!

VALENTINE THEATRE – OH

One more time, after the show in Hamilton we were back in the truck and driving up to Toledo.  We arrived there around 1:30am, got checked into the hotel, and into the bed.  I was excited to make this drive because the folks at the Valentine Theatre had made arrangements for me to do a show at Toledo Children’s Hospital on Saturday afternoon.  How could I miss that opportunity!

Our performance at the Valentine Theatre was Sunday afternoon – Super Bowl Sunday!  Thankfully it was a 4pm performance and the show would be over by 6pm so fans could see the kick off.  We had a nearly sold out audience – packed house – of excited, energetic people.  Once again, this was a very diverse audience of people of all ages.  I love looking over audiences like this – and I loved watching this audience’s response to each illusion!

I also have to say the crew here (local IATSE 24) was amazing.  We were loaded in and set up in record time!  And it was a fun, enjoyable, relaxed day for everyone.  It was the perfect day!

We loaded out the show, jumped back into the truck….and, yup, made the drive to Marion, OH….ah, life on the road!

RUTH ECKERD HALL – CLEARWATER, FL

Friday, January 20th, 2012

We started our 2012 tour with a performance at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida.  We have performed here several times in the past but this year was different for a couple of reasons.  First, the audience was very different this time.  Our Sunday matinee audience was a great mix of seniors, families, and young adults.  The packed house of more than 1800 people generated great energy and enthusiasm – and the diversity of the crowd was amazing.  I loved performing for this audience!

Second, I also had the chance to visit with my best friend in college, Danny Hodges.  He is the pastor of the Calvary Chapel in St. Petersburg.  He and his family were our guests at the show.  And we had the chance to visit Wendy and Danny the night before and after the show on Sunday.

Lastly, the day after the show was phenomenal!  Sharon and Kevin had arranged for me to spend some time with the therapists at two campuses of All Children’s Hospital.  I was able to share with them the concepts of “magic therapy” and how they can integrate simple magic tricks into the therapeutic toolbox.  Check out these pictures from the workshop and the magic show for the kids! It was the perfect ending to a great weekend at Ruth Eckerd Hall!

ARRIVAL IN ISTANBUL

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

We have arrived in Istanbul after a very early day of travel.  We woke up at 4am in Verona, Italy.  Our driver was there to pick us up at the Grand Hotel promptly at 5:10am to get us to the airport.  Needless to say, traffic was not bad that early in the morning so we made good time.  Once we got to the airport, it was an easy check in and we were on our way.  We had a brief layover in Rome before catching our connecting flight to Istanbul.  We picked up our luggage, made our way through passport control and customs and were met by Fatih from the TIM Show Center.  It was great to see a smiling face on our arrival!  Not since Josune met us in Bilbao have we been so welcomed to a new city!

Fatih had arranged for our transportation to the hotel.  We are staying in the City Center, close to many incredible things.  Fatih pointed out many of them to us along the way so we can get back to each and visit.  This is a very large city – over 17 million people – and the traffic bears out that fact.  One of the main highways had a massive accident involving 134 cars – a record for Istanbul (and we were here).

When we arrived at the hotel, Olcay was also there to greet us.  I have been emailing with her for several months so it was great to finally met her face-to-face.  Inside the lobby, there was a large poster promoting the performances here.

Once we were settled in our rooms, I had a quick meeting with Olcay and Fatih to talk about upcoming television appearances and the press conference.  She surprised me with a copy of the STAR, the largest newspaper in the city, that included a nice feature on the show and Healing of Magic.

And this very nice flyer….

After our meeting, Cindy and I decided to explore the area and find some food.  We are surrounded by some great places to eat, even if we don’t recognize much of the food.  We stopped off at a little shop and ordered a couple of chicken sandwiches.  We also saw some potato fries and asked for an order of those too.  They gave them to us but they were ON our sandwich!  It was quite tasty!  After dinner, we stopped at another little place for some dessert and coffee – delicious!

We are checked into our hotel for 10 days so we thought we would buy a few things at the grocery store.  That was an awesome experience!  We found so many cool things.  I love the cereal boxes here – very colorful!  And I’m sure the cereal is great too!

After a walk through the neighborhood, we came back to the hotel.  It’s been a very long day but way too early to go to sleep.  The view from our window is magical…tomorrow we’ll visit the Blue Mosque and a few other sights.

COMMUNITY ARTS CENTER – WILLIAMSPORT, PA

Monday, October 24th, 2011

This was our first experience working with Rob and Jeri at the Community Arts Center…and I’m hoping it’s not going to be the last! The venue is spectacular – a beautifully restored 1928 vaudeville theatre.

We were able to spend a couple of days here.  They had worked hard to arrange for some outreach activities.  The project started working with a group of approximately 160 special learners from across the school district.  They came to the Community Arts Center for a small magic performance that included their participation.  Then they learned a few tricks of their own.  Several of them made their way to the stage, performed for their classmates, and experienced the cheers and applause of a job-well-done.  There is no way to put into words the “magic” that happens when these kids perform!

In the afternoon, several teachers from around the district took time after school to attend a workshop on the Hocus Focus project.  This is an experiential workshop that demonstrates how to integrate magic into classroom instruction AND align these activities to National and Common Core State Standards of Learning.

The next morning, Jeri had arranged for a visit to the Children’s Development Center.  This organization is committed to helping families understand how to encourage their child with behavioral and psychological needs.  I had the privilege of working with the therapy staff, teaching them how to integrate magic tricks into their sessions with the remarkable kids.  However, the real fun started when I got to work with the kids!  Elizabeth Dixon is the OT Department Supervisor and coordinated the workshop and time with the kids.  She gave me permission to share these thoughts:

Kevin Spencer visited the Children’s Development Center on October21st, 2011. He spent over an hour teaching our staff of occupational and physical therapists about different magic techniques that can be incorporated into therapy.  With this, he explained various uses for the tricks in all types of populations (physically disabled/ Autism/ various syndromes).  Kevin was able to relate his tricks to occupational performance and key areas that are addressed in therapy (visual motor/ coordination/strength/ motor planning, etc.).  He then worked with several of our clients.  He and his staff were engaging and able to transition his tricks to the children well.  One parent commented to me that she has not seen her son this focused in a long time (child is diagnosed with Autism).  Kevin was a knowledgeable communicator to this staff and to our clients.  We are very grateful for his visit.

The final residency event was held at Susquehanna Health as a “brown bag” in-service presentation during lunch.  Almost 50 therapists brought their lunch into the therapy gym and participated in the workshop.  After lunch, I was able to work with several of the clients – brave and courageous people with a lot of hard work ahead of them.

We topped off the two days with a final performance in the beautiful Community Arts Center.  It’s always a blast to perform for a large, enthusiastic audience ready to have a good time – and these guys were ready to have a great time!

Thank you Williamsport for a memorable experience in your community.  We do hope we get to come back sometime soon!

TRAVELING HOME

We left Williamsport to head to our home in Virginia.  This would be our last chance to spend any significant time there before leaving on a 7 week tour (including 4 weeks in Europe).  You might remember that last weekend we had one of our new tires blow out on us.  Well, the same thing happened again.  As we were driving home, I heard an explosion under the truck as the other rear tire lost its tread.  Thankfully, Cindy was able to find a mobile service to come and get us back on the road.  We made it home around 11:30pm – still, there’s no place like home.